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What we know about President-elect Biden’s phone calls with world leaders

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NOVEMBER 12, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden in Wilmington, Del., on Nov. 10. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

President-elect Joe Biden began fielding congratulatory phone calls from world leaders this week.

The conversations, traditional courtesies after U.S. elections, have been complicated by an overarching factor: President Trump’s refusal to concede.

In a break from tradition, the State Department has not provided a secure government line or language interpretation for the Biden transition team — which may complicate some countries’ efforts to reach the president-elect.

Contact between presidents-elect and foreign leaders during the transition period between administrations is often the subject of scrutiny, as in the period after the 2016 presidential election. The first calls usually go to the closest U.S. allies, but Trump spoke to about a dozen world leaders the day after he won the vote, on Nov. 8, 2016, with autocratic leaders in Egypt and Turkey among the first to make contact.

The unorthodox nature of the calls soon proved a problem for the incoming administration.

In early December that year, Trump spoke with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen — an unexpected break in almost 40 years of U.S. policy in Asia that led to an angry response from China, which views the government of Taiwan as illegitimate and claims sovereignty over the island.

Trump’s initial national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, was accused of undermining U.S. sanctions on Russia before the 2017 inauguration. He later pleaded guilty to perjury for lying to FBI investigators about talking with the Russian ambassador to the United States about Obama administration sanctions.

Here’s what we know about Biden’s calls so far.

As European leaders focus on Biden, European media remains unsettled by Trump’s refusal to concede

Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Biden by phone on Monday. The Canadian leader, who has clashed repeatedly with Trump, tweeted that he and Biden have “worked with each other before, and we’re ready to pick up on that work and tackle the challenges and opportunities facing our two countries — including climate change and COVID-19.”

The pair also discussed “trade, energy, NATO, anti-Black racism, and China’s arbitrary detention of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor,” Trudeau wrote, referring to two Canadians jailed in China.

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Britain

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted Tuesday that he had spoken to Biden, congratulating him. “I look forward to strengthening the partnership between our countries and to working with him on our shared priorities — from tackling climate change, to promoting democracy and building back better from the pandemic,” he wrote, quoting a Biden campaign slogan.

Biden’s team said he emphasized his desires to work closely with Britain on issues including climate change, global health and security in the western Balkans and Ukraine, and committed to honoring the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which helped end 30 years of violence and softened the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. He made similar remarks in a call with Ireland’s prime minister the same day.

There had been some concern in British political circles that Biden could clash with Johnson, because of the prime minister’s stance on Brexit and his awkward relationship with President Barack Obama. But the friendly call stood in contrast to the difficulty that then-Prime Minister Theresa May had in reaching President-elect Trump in 2016.

In his memoir, Kim Darroch, then the British ambassador to the United States, said that they had planned a phone call with Trump on the morning after the election but that it was canceled after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was supposed to lead Trump’s transition team, was fired.

“The carefully laid plans and arrangements had literally been thrown in the bin,” Darroch wrote, noting that May was the ninth world leader to speak to Trump. (Darroch later resigned after private memos criticizing Trump leaked and the president called him a “pompous fool”).

France

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to Biden on Tuesday. His office said in a statement that he congratulated Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris on their win and “emphasized his desire to work together on current issues — climate, health, the fight against terrorism and the defense of fundamental rights.”

Macron also posted about the call on Twitter, saying the two leaders will “have a lot to do together to promote shared priorities — climate, global health, international security — and effective multilateral action.”

In a readout of the call, Biden’s transition team said he expressed his hopes to “strengthen relations” between the two countries and reinvigorate “bilateral and trans-Atlantic ties, including through NATO and the EU.”

Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has had a frosty relationship with Trump, spoke with Biden on Tuesday. Her spokesman said in a statement that she outlined hopes for “close and trusting future cooperation” between the two countries.

“The chancellor and president-elect agreed that transatlantic cooperation is of great importance in view of the multitude of global challenges,” the statement said.

Biden’s team said he told Merkel that he looks forward to strengthening ties with NATO and the European Union, and to work together to face “security and development in Africa, the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, and Iran’s nuclear program.”

Ireland

In 2016, Trump called then-Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny the day after his election — and ahead of any other European Union leader. The Irish Times reported that the call was arranged through an Irish Embassy contact with links to former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, whom Trump later hired as his personal attorney. “He understands Ireland very well,” Kenny said of Trump after the call.

This time around, Biden also called Dublin early. Prime Minister Micheál Martin tweeted Tuesday that he and the president-elect had shared a “warm and engaging call.”

“He brings tremendous knowledge & understanding to his new role, and has a great love for his Irish heritage. He underlined his commitment to the Good Friday Agreement,” he wrote, noting Biden’s interest in rejoining the Paris climate agreement and supporting the World Health Organization.

Martin also said Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, will be invited to Ireland to “properly mark their success.”

Australia

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison tweeted Wednesday that he had spoken to Biden. “There are no greater friends and no greater allies than Australia and the US,” he wrote.

Morrison said he was looking ahead to joint celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the ANZUS treaty, a security agreement between Australia, New Zealand and the United States, next year.

The tweet was accompanied by a photo of Morrison — a close Trump ally who attended a White House state dinner last year — grinning at his desk.

In a statement, Biden’s camp said the two discussed “many common challenges,” including global health, climate change, economic recovery, democracy and security in the Indo-Pacific region.

South Korea

On Wednesday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in tweeted that he and Biden had spoken and “reaffirmed our firm commitment to a robust [U.S.-Korea] alliance and peaceful and prosperous Korean Peninsula.”

“Going forward, I will work closely with him to meet global challenges including COVID19 and climate change,” he wrote. The call between the two lasted 14 minutes, and Biden committed to a meeting with Moon soon after he assumes the presidency in January, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

Moon also quoted famed Irish writer Seamus Heaney in their conversation, according to Yonhap, probably in reference to Biden’s repeated invocation of the poet in political speeches.

Biden’s transition team said in a statement that the president-elect praised Moon’s “strong leadership” during the pandemic.

Japan

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga spoke to Biden on Wednesday and later told reporters that Biden “said that he looks forward to strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance and working together on achieving a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The Japan Times reported that the call lasted about 15 minutes.

In a readout, Biden’s team said he “underscored his deep commitment to the defense of Japan and U.S. commitments under Article 5,” a reference to a security treaty between the two nations that requires the United States to respond if Japan comes under attack.

Suga said Biden also said the terms of Article 5 include attacks on a group of islands controlled by Japan, which calls them Senkaku, but contested by China, which calls them Diaoyu.

The Vatican

Biden spoke with Pope Francis on Thursday. The president-elect raised issues including “the crisis of climate change, and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities,” according to a statement from the transition team.

Other countries

A number of nations have yet to congratulate Biden on his victory, including U.S. rivals including China, North Korea and Russia but also some allies, such as Brazil.


Courtesy/Source: Washington Post

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